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Conference News: Social Policy in a Development Context

1 Jun 2001



“How can social policies be used to enhance social capacities for economic development without, in the process, eroding the intrinsic values of the social ends that policy makers claim to address?” This question was debated at the UNRISD International Conference held in Tammsvik, Sweden, from 23–24 September 2000.

In the report of the conference released today, it is argued that the question prompts rethinking social policy away from its conception as a residual category of “safety nets” that merely counteract developmental disasters, and toward its conception as a key instrument that works in tandem with economic policy to ensure equitable and sustainable development. And that today, political necessities and policy shifts have made it imperative to rethink the role of social policy in the context of development.

During the conference, 25 speakers presented their comments on the background paper prepared by UNRISD and led discussions. Their contributions and discussions are regrouped in the conference report under four broad themes: (i) social policy and macroeconomic policy: integrating “the economic” and “the social”; (ii) industrialization, employment and social policy; (iii) globalization, social security and the privatization of welfare; and (iv) welfare regimes, social settlements and livelihoods: is a North-South dialogue on social policy useful?

The two-day conference, organized by UNRISD in collaboration with the Olof Palme International Center (OPIC) and funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), was concerned with the meaning and role of social policy in the context of development. It was the first activity of the Institute’s project on “Social Policy in a Development Context” and brought together over 40 participants, representing academic and research institutions, and national and international agencies. This three-year research project is now being further developed at UNRISD, drawing on the contributions to the conference.